LABOUR leader Eamon Gilmore has suggested oil companies may be acting as a cartel to hike up the price of diesel and “rip off” motorists.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, he raised two instances where he believed consumers were being charged “inexplicable” prices.
The first instance involved goods in Irish branches of British retail outlets. Citing a recent newspaper survey, Mr Gilmore said the prices in the Irish branches were up to 50% higher than in the retailers in Britain, despite the euro’s strengthen against sterling.
“The euro is now worth 80p sterling,” Mr Gilmore said. “At one stage, it was valued below 60p sterling. In such circumstances, one would have expected that the prices charged in the Irish branches of British retail outlets would have fallen. Instead, they are much higher than those charged in the UK.”
He said this was a “rip-off of Irish consumers” by the British retailers involved.
Mr Gilmore then proceeded to query the price of diesel: “No one can explain why the price of diesel has shot ahead of that of petrol or why it is continuing to rise.
“The only explanation appears to be that the oil companies, anticipating a shift by motorists to diesel cars and other diesel- powered vehicles as a result of environmental concerns, etc, are taking the opportunity to hike up the price.
“It appears the oil companies are engaged in some kind of cartel activity in order to hike up the price of diesel and rip-off motorists and hauliers. The latter will have consequences down the line for jobs and businesses.”
Taoiseach Brian Cowen responded saying Tánaiste Mary Coughlan would this week discuss the sterling issue with the chief executive of the National Consumer Agency.
On the subject of oil and diesel, Mr Cowen said these were matters for the Department of Enterprise to address with the relevant state agencies.
“There is a need to ensure that there is transparency as regards pricing arrangements. Oil prices have doubled in the past 12 months, from $62 to $126 per barrel,” said Mr Cowen.
“That sort of variation depends on the availability of oil and the stocks that are already in place… We have established agencies to deal effectively with these matters,” he said.
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